Bullying and Cyberbullying
Bullying and Cyberbullying
Bullying is behaviour that hurts someone else – such as name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading rumours, threatening or undermining someone.
It can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.
Bullying that happens online, using social networks, games and mobile phones, is often called cyberbullying. A child can feel like there’s no escape because it can happen wherever they are, at any time of day or night.
It can be hard for adults, including parents, to know whether or not a child is being bullied. A child might not tell anyone because they're scared the bullying will get worse. They might think that they deserve to be bullied, or that it's their fault.
Signs of bullying:
You can’t always see the signs of bullying. And no one sign indicates for certain that a child’s being bullied. But you should look out for:
- belongings getting “lost” or damaged
- physical injuries such as unexplained bruises
- being afraid to go to school, being mysteriously 'ill' each morning, or skipping school
- not doing as well at school
- asking for, or stealing, money (to give to a bully)
- being nervous, losing confidence, or becoming distressed and withdrawn
- problems with eating or sleeping
- bullying others.
- sending threatening or abusive text messages
- creating and sharing embarrassing images or videos
- 'trolling' - the sending of menacing or upsetting messages on social networks, chat rooms or online games
- excluding children from online games, activities or friendship groups
- setting up hate sites or groups about a particular child
- encouraging young people to self-harm
- voting for or against someone in an abusive poll
- creating fake accounts, hijacking or stealing online identities to embarrass a young person or cause trouble using their name
- any other inappropriate images or messages
What if my child is bullying someone?
Find out whether other children were involved and what part your child played. They may not have realised that what happened was bullying. Tell them explicitly that this behaviour isn’t acceptable and if the behaviour happened online, explain that this doesn’t mean it’s not upsetting. Help them understand how what they’ve done feels. You could ask them how they think the other child felt, or how they feel when someone says unkind things to them. Explain that leaving someone out of an online discussion or group can be just as bad as attacking them directly. Encourage them to apologise to the person involved and, if online, help them to remove the content.
Children don’t think of people they’ve met online through social networking and online games as strangers, they’re just online friends. This can make them vulnerable to bullying, inappropriate friendships and grooming.
Unfortunately bullying can happen anywhere-even online, and it can take many different forms. Children could receive unpleasant emails or text messages, and people may say or mean offensive things to them or post cruel comments or pictures on social networks. Bullying can also involve being purposefully blocked, ignored, and excluded from games or social media sites. Often children won’t know who the comments are from, as users can post things anonymously. The online bully may be someone who they know, or they could be a stranger.
Anonymous websites, texting sharing services and apps are on the increase. These services can appeal to young people as it lets them explore issues anonymously and ask difficult questions. However, anonymity can make the risk of being bullied or contacted by strangers worse.
What can you do?
- Be Proactive. Use opportunities such as news events on television storylines to start conversations about what your child would do if they were being bullied or what they think should or shouldn’t be said online. Remind them that their behaviour online should reflect their offline behaviour. Encourage them to think before they post or share information on anonymous sites. If your child is being bullied online speak to the school or community support officer about it.
- Block and report. Encourage your child not to respond or retaliate to any form of bullying. Instead, help them to block and report the bullies and keep any evidence. You might want to contact their school or youth club to let them know about the incident, if you think it’s appropriate. Let your child know you’re always there for them, but if they feel too embarrassed or scared to talk, you could suggest they talk to a teacher or call child line on 08001111
It can be really distressing to discover that your child is being bullied. However hard it is, try to stay calm and don't jump to conclusions. Your child may be really worried about talking to you about the bullying, and scared that it'll make the situation worse.
These tips will help you keep them safe whether you've found out that they're being bullied or you want to make sure they know what to do it if happens to them or someone they know.
1. Talk about bullying and cyberbullying
- Explain to your child what bullying is, and ask if they're being bullied. Keep calm, and listen carefully.
- They may feel really scared, embarrassed or ashamed that they're being bullied and they may be worried about what will happen if they tell anyone.
- Once you know your child is being bullied, remember to check in with them often. Remind them they can talk to you about how they are feeling whenever they want.
- You could get advice from NSPCC about how to start a conversation on difficult topic.
2. Make sure they know who to ask for help
- If your child is being bullied they might be scared to ask for help, because they think it'll make the bullying worse. Let them know they can always talk to you, or another trusted adult such as a teacher or other family member.
- If they don't want to talk to you, you could suggest they contact ChildLine where a counsellor will provide a listening ear. They don't have to give their name and they can talk about anything that is worrying them.
- Childline is free, confidential helpline for children and young people. Whenever children need us, Childline is there for them – by phone on 0800 1111, email or live chat, trained Childline counsellors are there for young people 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
3. Help them to relax and take time out
- If your child is being bullied they may feel down, worried or lack confidence.
- Help them find things to do that make them feel good like listening to music or playing sport. Give them opportunities to help build their confidence.
- Remember to reassure them that it's not their fault and that they are loved and valued.
- ChildLine has friendly advice and tips for children on building their self-esteem, being more assertive and coping with embarrassment.
4. Teach them how to stay safe online
- Cyberbullying can be really hard for a child to deal with because they can feel like there's no escape.
- Don't stop them from using the internet or their mobile phone. It probably won't help keep them safe and could stop them from telling you what's happening.
- Thinkuknow has advice on online safety for young people that is suitable for different age groups. Their website shows children how to contact social media sites if they believe someone has posted something upsetting about them.
- Block'em is a free app for Android users that blocks unwanted calls and text messages from specified numbers. Their website also provides advice for iOS7 users.
5. Talk to your child’s school
- If your child is being bullied, you can talk to their school. It doesn't matter whether the bullying is happening in school, outside or on the internet. All schools have a responsibility to protect their pupils from bullying.
- arrange a meeting with the school - you can bring another person along with you for support if you wish
- bring any evidence of the bullying that you have with you such as text messages, a record of incidents or screenshots of web pages (if the bullying is happening online)
- tell them what effect the bullying is having on your child
- ask for a copy of the school or club's anti-bullying policy, behaviour policy and complaints procedure. These may be available to you before the meeting on the school’s website.
- ask the teacher or organiser what action they will take making sure that all parties are in agreement.
- After your meeting, arrange to speak to them again in the near future so you can see what progress has been made.
- The school may inform the Police if the bullying involves ongoing harassment and intimidation or a hate crime (such as racism or homophobia) but it’s best to speak to the school first.
This information and more can be found on the NSPCC website.